Soft as the Earth

P1090590

Sunday afternoon’s walk (after B’s rugby match in Preston and a delicious lunch whipped up  by TBH). It was only going to be a short one: a chance to stretch my legs and grab some lungfuls of fresh air. First I had an errand to run, returning a child’s coat which had been left at our house (which made a nice change from retrieving one of our own children’s lost coats from wherever they have left them), so I walked over to Oak Tree Barn to do that. This is on Bottom’s Lane, near Bottom’s Farm and is really part of Bottom’s Barn, a much better name for comedic purposes, and one which I shall steadfastly use henceforth.

Anyway, continuing to walk from there, I noticed that the sun was setting. There are lots of good places locally from which to watch the sunset: Warton Crag, Jack Scout, Arnside Knott and, closer to home, The Cove all fit the bill. But in a field with Hagg Wood to my west didn’t seem like a great choice of vantage point.

I dithered momentarily about where to go next, but in the end decided to cut across to the Row and hence into Eaves Wood. A gateway in Jubilee Wood gave me another slightly obscured view of what looked to possibly be a stunning sunset…

P1090596

P1090598

I climbed slightly to pass through the Ring o’Beeches. The sky to the South had some lovely deep blues offset with a little pink.

P1090603

Also the moon…

P1090601

But through the trees I could still glimpse some patches of highly coloured sky and so decided to head up to Castlebarrow. I suspected that I would be too late, and would miss the light show.

P1090605

Humphrey Head.

Not quite. The tide was in. The Bay was picking up the pastel yellows and oranges from the sky.

P1090619

It was enormously peaceful. It was just a shame I didn’t have the wherewithal to make a brew to sit with and enjoy it.

Instead I decided to extend the walk and head down to The Cove and across The Lots.

P1090621

It was getting pretty dark by now and Tawny Owls were hooting on every side. In winter, a spring rises at the base of the low cliff here, but aside from the gentle murmur of the water and the calls of the owls, it was still and quiet.

P1090634

Magic.

P1090633

And the title? Well, this post could have been ‘An Unexpected Bonus’ but I’ve used that title before. In the previous post, I had intended to quote from Auden’s ‘In Praise of Limestone’. But forgot.

I quite like:

‘soft as the earth is mankind’

But it continues …

‘soft as the earth is mankind and both
Need to be altered.’

Which puts an entirely different slant on it. A bit sinister I thought.

So, I’m going to go for:

‘when I try to imagine a faultless love
Or the life to come, what I hear is the murmur
Of underground streams, what I see is a limestone landscape.’

 

 

Soft as the Earth

Residual Light

P1090461

A new month. Which started for me with one of those late night conversations in which the world is put thoroughly to rights. I’ve had plenty of those conversations in the past. This one was substantially different than any I’ve been involved in before, because I really felt that two of the three people involved really might change the world in significant ways. I mostly listened, excited and dizzied in equal measure. I realise that this is all rather cryptic and probably seems like hyperbole, but I shall keep my counsel until events have either confirmed or balked my suspicions.

Later that day, I was up unusually early to get into Lancaster for a pre-operative assessment. Nothing major, in fact a procedure I’ve had before, although unfortunately that means that I am well aware of the uncomfortable aftermath of the surgery. Ho-hum.

At lunchtime, I picked up new glasses. My first vari-focals: I am officially old. Suddenly the world has swum back into focus and has unexpected textures and details. Happily, I managed to resist the temptation to tell the lady who sold me my the specs that she was much more wrinkled than I had hitherto realised.

What kind of idiot wears 10 year old specs with a scratched lenses and an out-of-date prescription? This kind of idiot, that’s who! Well, not any more. (Not for another 10 years anyway).

What a good day then to get home early enough to get out whilst the sun was still shining. There are primroses flowering on the bank on Cove Road where they always appear early. Even earlier this year than is usual I think. The sun had sunk behind a bank of western cloud before I reached the Cove, but the residual light was still showing the Bay to pleasing effect.

Inevitably, things change, for good or evil. But the primroses and the sunsets are a reliable constant.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Residual Light

Still Trying – a very uninformative post.

The Cove – The Lots

P1090022

Small Tortoiseshell.

Sometimes just a short walk, to familiar places, can yield a great deal of diversion and interest. (This was back in October btw)

P1090025

There are nine species of social wasps resident in Britain; this is one of them, but I can’t identify which.

P1090033

Drone Fly?

If it isn’t a Drone Fly, it’s a similar hover-fly, hoping to be mistaken for a Honey Bee.

P1090031

There are four species of brown Bumblebees in Britain; I think that this is one of those.

P1090032

Apparently, it’s hard to tell them apart without a microscope, but the most common, and so perhaps the most likely, is Bombus Pascuorum, the Common Carder Bee.

P1090039

Another hover-fly imitating something with a sting.

Most of these (poorly identified) insects were photographed on a patch of tall daisies with Dandelion like flowers, growing on the rough stony ground at the back of The Cove.

P1090036

…I’ve always struggled with identifying the myriad different yellow daisies…

P1090034

…but I thought that with a few photos…

P1090035

…of flowers, seed-heads and leaves I would be able to track this one down. However, I’ve consulted four different books and numerous websites and whilst I’ve found several plants which almost seem to fit the bill, all of them have some disqualifying feature, or at least that’s what I’ve convinced myself anyway.

P1090037

“The more I learn, the more I realise how much I don’t know.”

Albert  Einstein

Although, in my case, it’s more a case of: the more I try to learn, the more I realise how much I don’t know.

P1090045

Still, I enjoy the trying.

Still Trying – a very uninformative post.

More Butterflies and Leaves

Eaves Wood – Arnside Tower – Saul’s Road – Arnside Knott – Heathwaite – White Creek – Far Arnside – The Cove – The Lots

P1080949

Red Admiral.

Early October, the weekend after we had a houseful, and in a typical Sod’s Law sort of a way the weather is fantastic, sunny, bright and even warm.

P1080945

Comma.

P1080956

In Eaves Wood.

P1080958

This Crane’s-bill doesn’t quite match any of the plants in ‘The Wild Flower Key’ so I wonder if it is a garden escapee?

P1080960

P1080962

P1080965

P1080961

P1080970

I was a bit puzzled by the colouration of this dragonfly, but having consulted my field guide, I now think that it is probably an older female Common Darter.

I ventured onto a small path on Arnside Knott which I haven’t taken before, which took me past…

P1080971

…a fox’s earth?

P1080973

Arnside Knott view.

P1080974

Arnside Knott panorama.

P1080976

Whitbarrow Scar.

P1080984

P1080986

This area of marshy foreshore at White Creek has appeared during the time that I’ve lived in the area. It’s become quite wet and treacherous to walk on.

But there were still some Sea Asters…

P1080987

…flowering there.

P1080989

Burnett Rose.

P1080990

Bryony Berries.

P1080991

P1080994

I took these photos of berries and leaves to help me identify a tree I didn’t recognise, but sadly I’m still none the wiser.

P1080996

P1090003

P1090010

Holly.

P1090011

Bell Heather.

P1090019

Sunset from the Cove.

I would have been nice if this weather had materialised a week earlier, so that we could have shared it with our friends. But, then again, it’s a bit churlish to complain; I enjoyed having to myself after all.

P1080847

These last two ‘bonus’ photos are from a different walk, back in September, when apparently I walked to Jack Scar to take some sunset photos (but no other photos!)

P1080849

More Butterflies and Leaves

Three is the Magic Number

A Three Walk Day: A wander in Eaves Wood – The Cove and The Lots – Clark’s Lot and the Lots again (with a very excited Little S)

P1070371

Another Gatekeeper (they are everywhere now that I know to look out for them).

P1070383

Ringlet.

P1070386

P1070389

P1070398

P1070403

We’ve had two Roe Deer fawns in our garden quite recently. This buck crossed my path in Eaves Wood. I’m sure that I’ve said this before on the blog, but the golden colour of their summer coat is stunning.

P1070407

P1070410

The Cove.

P1070411

Morecambe Bay and Humphrey Head.

P1070408

Bettony.

P1070413

Bird’s-foot trefoil.

P1070415

Lady’s Bedstraw.

P1070425

Comma.

P1070426

The Comma was photographed in our garden, not on any of the three walks, in an interlude whilst I was cutting the grass.

P1070428

Why three walks?

Well, why not?

I was pleasantly surprised when Little S volunteered to join me for the final stroll of the day. He was almost frantic with anticipation for the coming few days.

Why was he so excited?

Because: school was set to finish, we were about to go away to the coast and if that wasn’t enough, his birthday, and his birthday party,  were imminent. He didn’t pause once for breath on that final, late stroll, but chatted incessantly, as he is wont to do. I think if he hadn’t, he might have exploded.

 

 

 

Three is the Magic Number

Quick Fixes

P1060330

I got behind again, these photos are a month old now. This first one is from a flying visit to Arnside Knott during A’s weekly piano lesson.

Later that same evening, TBH and I took a turn around the village, taking in The Cove and The Lots. On The Lots the Early Purple Orchids were just beginning to emerge. I walked round that way again last night, too late for any photo opportunities, but even in the last of the gloaming the orchids looked spectacular. I’m sure that they have spread; they seem to be thriving.

P1060333 

Anyway, back to April –  the following evening I was out again, this time visiting Sharp’s Lot, Pointer Wood and Clark’s Lot.

P1060340 

Many of the trees were coming into leaf.

P1060342 

The sheltered spot in the limestone pavement where the primroses flourish was finally looking resplendent. The primroses too seem to be spreading and thriving.

P1060349 

I’d completely forgotten taking this photo…

P1060359

In the late winter and early spring the sound of woodpeckers drumming is almost a constant soundtrack in this area. I often see them when I’m out and about too, but they are incredibly elusive whenever a camera is aimed in their direction. This is hardly the best ever photograph of a woodpecker, but at least it’s recognisable.

Not much else to say about these brief outings so I thought I would mention again Claxton by Mark Cocker, who manages to always have something interesting to say about his wildlife observations in and around his home patch in Norfolk.

P1060423

Highly recommended.

Quick Fixes

Tiny Winging Darting Floating

Townsfield – The Cove – The Lots – The Shore – Cow’s Mouth – Jack Scout – Jenny Brown’s Point – Heald Brow – The Cliff Path

P1060247

A local, post-work stroll in glorious sunshine, remarkable for its bird-spotting opportunities right from the off. The hedgerow along Townsfield was seemingly full of birds.

P1060248 

Great Tit.

P1060251 

Blue Tit.

P1060257 

House Sparrows.

P1060258 

I wasn’t the only one taking an interest…

P1060250 

Nor was it only the hedgerow which was busy: overhead a couple of Corvids were harassing a Buzzard…

P1060249 

Usually, I have to crop my bird photos. This Chaffinch was sitting in such a prominent spot, just above the path by The Cove, that it hasn’t been necessary on this occasion.

P1060268 

Chaffinch song is one of the few which I can reliably recognise, which means that when I hear it I always feel profoundly pleased with myself, Chaffinches and life in general.

P1060267 

Just beyond this Chaffinch’s perch, stands a much larger Ash tree. I once saw a Tawny Owl sat in its branches and now habitually glance over just in case. It’s nearly six years since I saw the owl and I don’t think I’ve seen anything in the same spot since, so my optimism is perhaps misplaced. Except…There was something in the same tree again. The owl was back! But…wait, it wasn’t right for an owl somehow. I fumbled for my camera, but too late, the raptor opened it’s wings and glided effortlessly away. I managed to take one photo, but only of a space between the trees which the bird had just vacated. So, what was it? I’m pretty confident that it wasn’t a Buzzard, and also that I spotted dark wing-tips as it flew, so I suspect that it was one of the local Marsh Harriers – although that would put it some way off their usual patch.

On the Lots, a dozen or so Starlings were picking-over the sward…

P1060272 

I wanted to go back to Jack Scout again, and fancied a different route, so went down Shore Road to The Beach (as it’s known locally – there’s no sign of any sand) and from there around the shore to Cow’s Mouth (another cove) and Jack Scout.

P1060284

It was a clear evening and the camera’s zoom reveals the profile of the Coniston Fells…

P1060286 

P1060288 

One advantage of knowing a few birdsongs is that from time to time I realise that I’m hearing something different and start looking for the culprit. I’m not always successful, but occasionally that tactic can pay dividends…

P1060293 

Blackcaps aren’t necessarily migrants. Three of them, two females and a male, overwintered in and around our garden many years ago, when we lived on The Row. But despite that fact, I only generally see them at this time of year, when the males are busying singing to establish and protect a territory. And even in Spring I don’t see them often, so when I do spy one I’m always thrilled. Getting a photo too was a real bonus.

P1060296 

From Jack Scout I headed around Jenny Brown’s Point towards the chimney. I’m not very confident with wading birds, but I guess that these are Redshank…

P1060307 

I can’t decide whether this rather rough wall…

P1060308 

…is an archaeological remnant of the buildings which once accompanied the chimney here, and which has been revealed by the action of the tides on the foreshore; or whether it has been more recently constructed for some reason.

I was very taken by the red hue in the tips of the branches of these trees…

P1060311 

There’s a David Hockney painting ‘Bigger Trees Nearer Warter’ which I’m sure has almost exactly the same hue.

P1060310 

My route had taken onto the south side of higher ground and therefore into the shade, a mistake which needed rectifying. Fortunately, there’s a path which climbs steeply up to Heald Brow which would take me back into the sunshine. As I climbed the birds singing from all of the nearby trees gave me plenty of excuses to pause and scan the trees for the musician’s. Two Chiff-chaffs were competing, one at the bottom of the slope, the other at the top. In a line of trees several Robins were duelling hard. But loudest of all, ringing out over all of them, was a solitary Song Thrush…

P1060312 

Not the best photo of a Song Thrush I know, but what surprised me about this photo was the wildlife I didn’t expect to capture in it: the shoals of insects which were flying all around the Thrush. It’s this bonanza which drives so much of the birdsong, brings the migrants, fuels the nesting season. I wasn’t thinking that at the time, I must confess; I was more concerned about climbing the hill with my jaws firmly closed so as to not find myself with a mouthful of unwanted protein.

Time for one more bird on this walk, in a tall Ash on the edge of Pointer Wood. Not the sharpest photo, but more evidence of my occasional success with birdsong, which is how I located this Nuthatch…

P1060324

Tiny Winging Darting Floating